Hibs star Tim Clancy has issued a rallying call to his Easter Road team-mates ahead of tonight’s derby showdown with Capital rivals Hearts at Tynecastle, telling them: “Let’s start the New Year the way we ended 2012.”
Pat Fenlon’s side saw out the old year with a victory against SPL champions Celtic, their first over the Hoops on home turf in four years and now they have their sights set on a first win in Gorgie in almost as long.
Hibs, of course, won the last derby, knocking the Scottish Cup holders out of this season’s competition thanks to David Wotherspoon’s deflected shot, and back-to-back wins over John McGlynn’s side would see them kick off 2013 nine points ahead of the Jambos.
But as much as the green and white army would lap up such a scenario, Clancy insisted Fenlon’s players are more interested in ensuring they keep themselves in the chase for second place.
Although the cup win at Easter Road was Hibs’ first in 13 matches against Hearts, Clancy was adamant there was no inferiority complex as far as he and his team-mates were concerned.
He said: “We don’t see it that way. We want to win every game we play and we know if we play to the best of our ability we are capable of beating anyone. We showed that against Celtic. They have a far superior squad, but on our day, if we play well, we can match them. We passed the ball really well, had the better chances in the first half and we should have been more than one up.
“We know if we play as well as we can, we have a chance.”
Hibs’ cup win came at a point when the Easter Road outfit’s league season appeared to have stalled to a degree, but, claimed former Kilmarnock and Motherwell defender Clancy, morale within the dressing room never dropped, although the win against Celtic will have sent confidence soaring to new heights.
He said: “I don’t think morale was down. We’d had a good start to the season then hit a sticky patch when we lost a few games. Morale in the camp has always been good, but it was nice to get the cup victory.”
Clancy missed that match having been forced out of action for two months, during which he had surgery to help overcome a groin problem which had been bothering him for some weeks, but now he is looking forward to the white-hot atmosphere of Tynecastle, allaying any fears regarding his fitness which might have arisen by the sight of him being replaced by Alan Maybury less than an hour into the Leigh Griffiths-inspired win against Celtic.
He said: “I had been out injured for nine weeks and got 85 minutes against Ross County on Boxing Day. We only had a few recovery sessions before the Celtic game so it was more just tiredness and looking after myself. Alan is more than capable of playing for most teams in the league, so it is a good thing for us to have a few players who can step in and do as well as those who are on the pitch.”
While Hearts’ plans for tonight were disrupted by the revelation that Australian internationalist Ryan McGowan is on his way to China to discuss a possible £400,000 move to Shandong Luneng Taishan, Clancy insisted Fenlon’s players are only concerned about themselves. That, he claimed, extends to the impact tonight’s result will have one way or the other.
He said: “It’s not for me to say anything about their squad, but we are happy with ours. We have plenty of goals in our squad, especially with wee Sparky [Griffiths] up front. He notched again at the weekend with the winner against Celtic and Eoin Doyle has chipped in with a lot of goals, so there are plenty of people in our team capable of scoring.
“Honestly, we are not even looking at how many points they have. We are only interested in the points we have ourselves. The league this year, especially without Rangers, means there are a lot of points up for grabs and everybody is beating each other. If we can get the win, brilliant, because it gives us a chance to go up in the league.
“We are only concentrating on what we’re doing. If that’s enough to get us ahead of Hearts, then fine.”
Although the entire focus is on events at Tynecastle tonight, Clancy is aware attention will quickly turn again to the future of Hibs’ three loan signings and Griffiths in particular, with Fenlon keen to keep the Wolves striker, who has already stated he wants to stay at Easter Road, along with Manchester City’s Ryan McGivern and Honduran midfielder Jorge Claros.
Wolves have been reported as seeking £150,000 for a player who is out of contract at Molineux at the end of the season, a figure Clancy described as “a low-risk investment,” although he insisted Griffiths will ignore the speculation and hope to score against Hearts as he did when the clubs drew 1-1 at Easter Road on the second day of the season.
He said: “Every time Sparky goes on the training pitch he is desperate to score and to do the best he can. He just loves football. With this being a Hibs-Hearts game and him a Hibs fan, it would mean a lot to him if he could score again. You saw how much he enjoyed it in the 1-1 draw. It’s up to us to get him into the positions where we get the benefits of his ability.”
Griffiths may have attracted some unwanted attention away from football, but, Clancy claimed, the 22-year-old is the model professional in and around the club’s East Mains training centre.
He said: “I wasn’t at the club last year but players get stuck with a reputation. Since I’ve come in every day he works really hard and never causes any trouble at all. I thought he’d be a lot different from what he is, but he is a major asset at our club. He’s quiet enough but every day in training you can see he loves playing the game and scoring goals then and on a match day.
“He’s got 14 league goals halfway through the season which is remarkable as he is relatively young and will only get better. It’s very important to have players like that in the team.”